LDI 25TH Anniversary Leadership Insights: Harold Collins


  • Above all else, what do you believe is one key characteristic that makes a successful leader? I listen to the experts. At this level, I consider the directors to be experts in their field. I listen to them, and they offer their best. I also remind everyone that everyone in the room is competent; there’s no ‘one smartest person in the room.’ We all have something to offer.
  • How do you keep morale high and spark inspiration among your teams? I encourage them to take mental days. It can be a very stressful environment, so I encourage them to relax and to add a bit of humor to the process. We do a lot of team building as well. I also remind them that at this level, no one should be able to motivate you to do your job; you should already come motivated and ready to go. You know you’re making serious decision that impact peoples’ lives every day.
  • Tell me about a mentor who shaped your leadership? I have several, my first was my father. He drove a cab for 51 years here in Memphis. His leadership style was get up and go to work every day to feed your family. That was instilled in me at a very young age—whether it’s cutting yards are throwing a newspaper. So I got my work ethic from him. My second mentor was Judge Fred Axley — he offered me a scholarship and introduced me to government and politics. There I learned how to build relationships and understood there had to be a trust; and how to be loyal and ethical which is extremely important. My understanding of politics and public service came from him. My other mentor was my father-in-law who was an insurance agent. He instilled in me about listening. To make a decisions you have to listen to all sides of the problem. You have to trust yourself and your judgement to make the right decision when presented all sides.
  • What is a leadership lesson that you’ve discovered throughout your career that you wish you could have learned sooner? Patience. Growing up when you're 20 something fresh out of college, you have a roadrunner mentality. You try to get it done as quickly as possible. The microwave is not always the best way to cook food. You have to learn how to use the oven. Those are the things that build character and perseverance.
  • If you could tell your 20-year-old-self one thing, what would it be? Take your time. Trust your instincts and your judgement. And know in the end it’ll be ok.
  • What advice would you give to professionals who are stepping into the leadership space? Serve your community because once you start serving, you pick up things to help you, and you build relationships. Volunteer and be committed. Don’t do it to expect something in return.
  • Leadership extends far past the professional landscape at work, but into the broader Memphis community. Why do you believe it is crucial to make time to serve in other ways in the 901? (Can include how you serve—other boards? Volunteering? Mentoring?) We are put on this earth to be a blessing to others. It’s our responsibility to be connected to one another. I’m not ashamed of my faith, and I believe we’re here to serve others and show what Christ has done for us.
  • Tell me about a time where you felt most challenged in your leadership? How did you rise above? Many times! The first time was when I served as President of The Rebounders after Coach Price resigned. We were getting ready to go to Maui to play in the Maui Classic. My relationship with the interim Coach was a delicate balance, and an emotional time. Another time was when I was owning my company back in the early 90s. Starting a business is rough; meeting payroll is tough. But you have to remember that your staff takes their cues from you as their leader. Finally, when Mayor Harris offered me this position, [it was a challenge] because sometimes you just dont know if you’re cut out for these jobs. You work hard to get here, and when it’s offered, you have to ask if you're really really ready. You have to trust your education and judgement.
  • Why do you choose to lead in Memphis? There’s no place like it; I love it. I’ve been blessed to be able to go to school here at all 4 levels. Blessed to have employment here, met my wife here. This is one of the best places in the world to live. It was evident on 901 Day and every day. It’s he fabric of which we’re woven here in Memphis. It’s easy to fall in love with Memphis.
  • Leadership can oftentimes feel lonely, but it shouldn’t be. How do you believe leaders can best navigate and address this pressing issue? My wife tells me I need to talk more about my feelings and my inner-self. You have to have someone you trust to share with; those people keep you grounded. You only have a few of those, so you have to have those concieries to say this is what I’m going through, and they hold you accountable as well.
  • Share with us your biggest takeaway from your LDI experience and how would you convince another leader to take part in the program? Challenging myself to be open to listen to others and their backgrounds and not stereotyping. You don’t wana be in a space where everyone thinks the same, and that’s what the LDI provided for me. I had peers but also those to challenge me.
  • What is your hope for the future of Memphis? I’m an eternal optimist, so I hope and pray that we take seriously that there are people in this community who struggle with a lack of necessities. I want my role here to help facilitate a real solution to those problems — whether through housing, healthcare, education, job training, knowing everyone isn’t going to go to college. Providing other training for those folks for them to be successful too.
  • What has been your great accomplishment in your career or what are you most proud of in your career? When I served as the Executive Director of the Office of Re-entry. We put together a program to allow individuals to get certified in particular skills to find better paying jobs which was meningful to me. In my career, the "mountain top" would be to lead a public organization because I’m a public policy/criminal justice major, getting a Master's Degree in Public Policy now at JSU. This position is the height of my profession. To be able to lead the largest county in the state of Tennessee, to manage over five-thousand employees, give leadership to some of the best in their chosen field of expertise is a dream come true. I would like to think my mom and dad would be proud of me.
Posted by Anna Thompson at 12:56